The sun rises slowly over the horizon of the place I know should be my home, casting a golden wave of nostalgia over me. My hair feels dry as I rake my hand through it, not at all like the silkiness I am used to. I haven’t looked in a mirror for simply ages and the lack of beauty products in the small bag Jarmina allowed me when she pretty much kidnapped me is definitely taking its toll on me. Even my eyes probably look bad.
And there is practically no food here either. I really wish I could go back in time and just not go with Jarmina. She said Aro was in trouble and only I could save him. Liar. Then again, he was in trouble, but Jarmina could have saved him herself. That’s what she makes out anyway, but I don’t really believe her. Peasants are very much prone to exaggeration; my parents have always told me that. None of us Privates like them. I can only hope the Publics agree with us on that matter, for otherwise we will have a slight problem with control. Peasants only respect Public. I suppose it is because they are so alike: servants, unimportant, uneducated.
Beside me, the boy, Aro, awakes. “What time is it, Alene?”
I glare at him. “I don’t know but get ready,” I snap. “We have to leave.”
Aro laughs mockingly, staring at me with his bushy eyebrows raised and his moth cured into an amused grin. “Whatever you say, Ali.” Ali? He really does have a problem with thinking of intelligent comebacks. Still, I suppose he’s alright, really. At least he doesn’t hate me, like that Peasant, Jarmina.
“Where is she?” I ask, suddenly realising that we are only two in our ‘home’. Aro’s face is a sheepish mask, his lip sticking out slightly, pushed by a large front tooth. “What did you do?”
“Nothing!” Aro exclaims, though it sounds more like a question than an answer. Will he ever stop doing that? I glare at him again, trying to look angry, when instead I am just plain worried. Although I don’t like her, she could give us away, and that really would not be good news for us.
Someone coughs from behind me, and I turn around. “Where did you go?” I demand, the anger I really feel bubbling over the top.
“I went for a walk,” she replies simply, smiling as she speaks, trying to look innocent. It doesn’t really work.
“Jarmina!” Aro shouts, a little louder than necessary. “Thank goodness you’re okay! I was so worried.” He sounds like my mum did when I came home late from school.
“Enough with the homecoming lovey-dovey stuff,” I say, sounding surprisingly like Jarmina. Do I really have to use this tone of voice? It’s really annoying, the way Jarmina looks at me, smirking. “We have to leave.” Aro turns round to face me, eye round with alarm.
“You weren’t serious about that, were you?” I nod. “Alene, you’ll die!” His voice is pleading, I hear, begging me to stay and live a life as disgusting as this, surrounded by Peasants. No thank you, Aro.
“So? At least I won’t be stuck here with these Peasants. Do you even have a sense of smell? It’s disgusting!” My voice is louder than intended, and a few Peasants turn around, glaring. “What are you looking at?” I shout, still angry. I seem to be angry a lot these days.
“Alene, please. You don’t know what it’s like to escape. You don’t have any food or water, and it’s so hot during the day you can barely breathe, and so cold at night you can’t feel any part of your body.”
“Well, we can just huddle together to preserve body heat.” Aro rolls his eyes at my suggestion. I’m actually quite offended by that; I thought it was a good idea.
“That won’t solve any problem. It is way more complicated than that. Are you sure schools give you an education?” I feel myself flush bright red. Of course they do! That’s why we go there!
I glare at him some more, before turning away to glare instead at Jarmina. “What do you think?” I ask her. “It was your idea, after all.”
“I think we should go,” she replies haughtily, “but just not take you with us. All you do is whine about not having any more silk to wear, which will really hold us back.” I do not whine! Nobody understands the necessity of good clothing here! Even the War People said that, and if they agree, since they were the ones who created our city, I’m pretty sure they know what they’re talking about.
I try explaining it to Aro and Jarmina, but they just wave it off, saying that I don’t know anything about necessities and survival. I think they’ve got it the wrong way round. And anyway, I do have food.
They continue to protests against my going with them, but eventually they give in and we begin to dismantle the sticks and my jacket which make up our little area of space. Hopefully I’ll be able to breathe properly when we leave.
The Peasants stare at us as we leave, casting a strange silence on the stinking street. If only I had brought more perfume.
Aro leads us away from the place, past narrow streets of Public houses, one of which he and Jarmina stare up at longingly, before we arrive on the Privateland. The houses here remind me so much of my own home, the sparkling stained-glass windows, the shining white marble walls. I feel a pang of homesickness, before I wash it away to the depths of limbo. I can’t feel like this anymore.
I have to be strong, and I have to be a good leader. I have to impress my inferiors, for some strange reason. I have to leave. I have to stay silent even when I’m experiencing great discomfort.
I have to stop being a Private.